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ACM Home arrow Knights & Dames

Knights & Dames

 

King George V knights Sir John Monash on the battlefield

[King George V knights Sir John Monash on the battlefield]


In 1975, on the recommendation of the Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, The Queen approved the creation of a three level Order of Australia.

The government intended that it would supersede all other honours for Australian purposes.

The Queen is the Sovereign Head of the Order of Australia and the Governor-General is the Principal Companion. As Chancellor, the Governor-General is charged with the administration of the Order. The Official Secretary to the Governor-General is the Secretary of the Order.


...Knights  and Dames....

 

The Fraser Liberal Government (1975–83) began recommending Imperial honours again and added a fourth level of knight (or dame) to the Order of Australia. .

This level was removed by the Hawke Labor Government (1983–91). Proposals to restore this were rejected by the Howard Liberal Government (1996-2007)



...Imperial honours....

 

The awards of knighthoods and ranks in Imperial honours orders continued to be recommended by State Coalition governments, but were suspended under State Labor governments. They were brought to an end by The Queen in 1994.

Knights and dames and others holding Imperial honours retain legal recognition, for instance in the Australian Order of Precedence.



...Sovereign’s personal honours ....

 

The Queen of Australia may  confer honours upon Australians where these emanate from her personally rather than on the advice of government, in particular the Order of the Garter (last awarded to former Governor-General Sir Ninian Stephen, 1994), the Order of the Thistle (last awarded to former Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies, 1963), the Order of Merit (last awarded to Dame Joan Sutherland, 1991), the Royal Victorian Order (the Knighthood was last awarded to David Smith, 1990), and the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem (for services to St John Ambulance).



...a solution?...



The absence of a fourth level of the Order of Australia makes it difficult to compare with imperial and foreign orders. In the meantime politicians who object to imperial knighthood seem to have no objection to accepting foreign knighthoods, and to seeking approval to the retention of the honorific “ the Honourable”.

Australian honours do not obtain great recognition internationally in contrast with knighthoods – henc ethe high take up of the offer of the New Zealand government to allow certain recitionet of NZ honours to take one.

The objection to knighthood sdoes not seem to be to the knighthood itself but rather to the titles. We have suggested a compromise in these columns based on a precedent offered by bishops of the Church of England.

For some time it has been the practice of Anglican bishops to refuse the accolade, that is the dubbing, the stroke on the shoulder with the sword, and consequently, the title “Sir”.

This is because a knight would once give military service to the king, and the clergy did not think this appropriate for them. 
 So when they accepted a knighthood, they would not them take the title, “Sir”. This was also the practice in Australia among Anglicans, Sir Marcus Loane being an exception.

 

Catholic bishops in Australia would normally take the accolade, and proudly used the title granted by their Sovereign. You can imagine that there might have been a tinge of regret among the Anglican bishops (and their wives) when they read or heard of the activities of, say, Sir Norman Cardinal Gilroy or Archbishop Sir James Duhig. 

Perhaps this Anglican practice provides the solution. Reinstate the AK and the AD, but allow recipients to reject the accolade. Those who don’t want the title could reject the accolade; those who were happy with it could accept it.  Is this the solution?    

 

 

 



Whose Order of Australia? Print E-mail
Written by Sir David Smith   
Monday, 21 January 2008

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In 1975, on Whitlam’s advice, the Queen established the Australian honours system, with the Governor-General, as Chancellor of the Order of Australia, responsible for its administration.

 
Whitlam had modelled his new Australian honours system on the Canadian honours system which had been established some nine years earlier.
 Stuart Devlin, the Australian who had designed Australia’s first decimal coins following the introduction of decimal currency in 1966, was commissioned by the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, to design the insignia for the new honours system. 

In due course Devlin was ready to show his proposed designs to the Governor-General and the Prime Minister.

 As Devlin proudly displayed full-sized models of his proposals for the insignia of the Order of Australia, Whitlam almost exploded.

 There, in the centre of each golden wattle blossom, was an enamelled full-colour representation of the Commonwealth of Australia coat of arms, the shield of which contains the emblems of each of the six States that had constituted the Commonwealth at Federation.

 Pointing wildly at these, Whitlam loudly declared that he was not having those State emblems on his (sic) insignia, and instructed Devlin to remove the coat of arms from his designs.


[Extract from Sir David Smith, review on this site of The Chameleon Crown, by Dr Anne Twomey, The Federation Press, Sydney, 2006, first published in Canadian Monarchist News, Les Nouvelles Monarchiques du Canada. 

Sir David is shown on the steps of Old Parliament House reading the Proclamation dissolving the Parliament on 11 November, 1975.  Mr Whitlam, whose commission as Prime Minister had been withdrawn that morning by the Governor -General, Sir John Kerr, is standing behind Sir David]

 
Sir Edmund Hillary Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Sunday, 13 January 2008

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...the heavens blaze forth the death of princes... 

"When beggars die there are no comets seen; The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes." 

(William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar II, ii, 30-31)  

 

On the passing of Sir Edmund Hillary, the  media across the world  fulsomely reported on the life and times of this  extraordinary man.  

Even reports about the United States presidential race gave way to news of his passing on the front page of the New York Times website,  Radio New Zealand reported. It said that tribute pages were set up on other news sites including the Sydney Morning Herald, Times of London and the Times of India. In its report, The Australian abandoned or suspended its usual practice of avoiding the use of titular honours.

...citizen of Nepal...and "father of Sherpas"...

A State Funeral has been offered to the family, and accepted. This is an exceptional honour; unlike Australia, where they are increasingly offered to persons of general celebrity, State Funerals are rare in New Zealand, as they remain in the United Kingdom.

From the conquest of Mount Everest and for the rest of his life, Sir Edmund had sought neither celebrity status nor wealth. He used the fame that inevitably flowed from his triumph not for himself, but for the deserving, particularly in Nepal. This resulted in the building of 26 schools, two hospitals and an airport and providing scholarships for Sherpa children.

Accordingly, Sir Edmund will be remembered with particular affection in Nepal, where Sherpa friends  have lit butter lamps and offered special Buddhist prayers in monasteries across the country. In 2003, on the 50th anniversary of the climbing of Mount Everest, the government of Nepal had conferred honorary Nepali citizenship on Sir Edmund in recognition of his many services to the people and the region. He was the first foreign national to receive such an honour..

Norbu Tenzing, the son of Tenzing Norgay who was with Sir Edmund on the famous climb, (pictured together) described the day of Sir Edmund’s passing as one of “great sadness”.

 Sir Edmund, he said, was “a father for Sherpas” all around the world.

....civis Britannicus sum ...

Sir Edmund, who came from the time when the phrase “civis Britannicus sum” symbolised the union between all men and women across the vast Empire and Commonwealth on which the sun never set,  saw himself naturally as both  New Zealander and  British.

And so the British flag at the British High Commission in Wellington flew at half mast out of respect for Sir Edmund. The British High Commissioner, George Fergusson, said he was the quintessential hero to people in Britain, as well as New Zealand. To that could be added Australia, the Commonwealth, and to judge by the reaction to his passing, the world.

As the High Commissioner said, the moment Sir Edmund conquered Everest was dramatic for the Commonwealth, as the news came out the same day as the Coronation of The Queen. Subsequently, Sir Edmund was to be lead the second conquest of the South Pole and later, to be the only man who has stood on the summit of Everest and the site of both poles.

He was overwhelmed when, as a result of his triumph, he was created a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire  in 1953, a singularly appropriate recognition. Subsequently, he was made a member of the Order of New Zealand.

...the greatest honour...

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The greatest honour his Sovereign could grant him was to come in 1995. This was when he was made a Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter (KG), which is the very pinnacle of English chivalry. There are only twenty four companions, and the award is in The Queen’s personal gift, that is, it is made without formal advice being tendered by  government, British or New Zealand.

  He was also awarded the Polar Medal for his part in the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Various streets, schools and organisations around New Zealand and abroad are named after him, such as Hillary College in Otara, and Edmund Hillary Primary School in Papakura. 

In 1992 Sir Edmund’s face  appeared on the updated New Zealand $5 note, the  only New Zealander to appear on a banknote during his or her  own lifetime.

 Sir Edmund was a humble and loyal man. He has set an example of dedication, sacrifice, achievement and service that is a beacon not only for New Zealanders but for all people. 

 

 
"There's nothing like a Dame..." Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Wednesday, 02 January 2008

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[This is an opinion piece which appeared in a slightly edited version, “Get Our House In Order”, in the Herald Sun on 2 January, 2008]

 In congratulating those recognized in the New Year’s Honours, we should be aware of a rather glaring gap in the Order of Australia.

 I first noticed this at a Bastille Day ceremony, when the French Consul - General conferred a knighthood on an Australian[i].

 I turned to Gough Whitlam, the father of the Order and said, with a straight face, “Mr Whitlam, you’re the reason Australians have to go to a foreign republic to get a knighthood.”

 He threw back his head laughing and said “Yes, I have five or six of those knighthoods myself!”

He’s not alone. Others include Rupert Murdoch and Paul Keating’s in the Thai’s  “Most Exalted Order of the White Elephant.”

 Malcolm Fraser added the ranks of Knights or Dames of Australia (AK and AD) in 1976, but the Hawke government removed these in 1986, keeping the Medal (OAM) which Fraser had also introduced.

 My view that the Order is now lop sided was confirmed when I read a Canadian comment about   Nicole Kidman being made a Companion, our highest award[ii].

 No one in Canada, or anywhere, else took any notice. But they certainly did when Dame Elizabeth Taylor, Dame Julie Andrews,  Dame Judi Dench, Dame Joan Sutherland and  Dame Kiri Te Kanawa received theirs. As they would for Dame Nicole Kidman or indeed, Dame Cate Blanchett, who plays Queen Elizabeth I so superbly.

 As the song says, “There’s nothing like a Dame.”

 

"Arise, Sir Kevin..." 
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The problem remains, Labor objects.

 True, some Labor eminences have received imperial knighthoods, as did the respected former Governor-General Sir William McKell.  

Dr. HV Evatt, a strong constitutional monarchist, no doubt thought his doctorate was  vastly superior.

The point is, the objection is only to “Sir,” “Lady” and “Dame,” not knighthoods or titles as such.

  Bob Carr wasn’t the first Labor politician to petition The Queen to remain “ The Honourable.”  

And Gough Whitlam is inclined to address you as “Comrade,” even when they are a Tory.  Perhaps particularly when you are.

 There is a golden opportunity for Kevin Rudd, as a conservative prime minister, to fill this obvious gap in the Order of Australia.

Of all places, it’s the Church of England which offers the solution.

 Because being dubbed a knight indicated willingness to fight for the King, an Archbishop of Canterbury came to the conclusion that Anglican bishops could hardly accept what is technically called the accolade.

 They could accept the knighthood, but not the obligation to fight. So they were rarely if ever referred to as “Sir.”

 

Catholic bishops were not impressed by this casuistry, and so they had magnificent styles of address, such as  His Eminence, Sir Norman Cardinal Gilroy  and His Grace, Sir James Duhig,  no doubt to the chagrin  of the Anglican bishops and especially their wives. 

The solution is in Mr. Rudd’s hands.

 

Restore the AK and AD, but make the accolade voluntary.

Then one day we might even hear those words, “Arise Sir Kevin.”

Or, if you must, remove the accolade, but make awards at the same level as those many of your Labor colleagues have received from foreign powers and potentates.  



[i] See this column on 2 April 2004.

[ii] See this column 24 April 2007, and also this column 23 March,2006.

 
 
Daily diatribes warning of mayhem and destruction Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Wednesday, 02 January 2008

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...a self styled republican royal watcher...

You may not have realised this. This website is filled with “rants... about disasters about to befall the country” and with “ daily diatribes warning of mayhem and destruction.” 

This is the how Barry Everingham, the self styled republican royal watcher, described this site to the no doubt fascinated readers of the Melbourne newspaper The Herald Sun on 29 December, 2007.

He said that the election of the Rudd Government had thrown Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy into “ frenzy mode.”   Imagine that.

Well if it has, we haven’t noticed it.  It has been business as usual.

We thought republicans were more given to frenzy, as the drawing from Paris illustrates.

In his opinion piece, “Obsession Takes Crown, “Mr. Everingahm says “Flint has excelled himself in his latest post. “ -- he is calling for the restoring of the system of awarding titles in the Australian honours list -- as though in contemporary, egalitarian Australia giving a man the title of "sir" or a woman "dame" would be acceptable. “

That is precisely what I did not say. (Nor was it my latest post-there have been twelve since.)
Yes I had said in this column on 16 December, 2007, while reporting on Channel Nine’s coup in putting on a Royal TV series narrated by Cate Blanchett that it is perhaps time “for HM's Australian Prime Minister, the Hon Kevin Rudd, to think about restoring the AD (dame) and AK (knight), the suppression of which has left a gap in the Order of Australia."


So I sent the following letter to the Herald Sun:

Read more...
 
Sir Charles Walter Michael Court, AK, KCMG, OBE Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Sunday, 23 December 2007

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The late Sir Charles Walter Michael Court, AK, KCMG, OBE, who passed away on 23 December 2007, was Premier of Western Australia from 8 April, 1974 to 25 January, 1982. Sir Charles was a soldier, a believer in national development, a strong federalist and a strong constitutional monarchist.

 He was a great supporter of ACM, and was always willing to offer advice to us. His counsel was particularly valuable.

His family emigrated from England in 1912 when he was only a baby.

As a young man, Sir Charles enlisted in the Army in September 1940, and after officer training, he joined the Second Australian Imperial Force. He was deployed to the Northern Territory and then to New Guinea, principally on Bougainville Island. He was awarded an OBE for his service there.

As Premier he was a leading proponent of iron-ore mining in the Pilbara region and gas exploration and development in the North-West shelf, both of which have been of singular importance in the development of the state and of the nation.  

Survived by his wife Judy, sons Victor, Barry, Ken, former WA premier Richard and Geoffrey, 16 grandchildren and 19 great grandchildren, he will also be remembered as a dedicated family man.

In recognition of his many great contributions, Sir Charles was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1947, a knight bachelor in 1972, a Knight of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) in 1979, and a Knight of the Order of Australia (AK) in 1982.

Sir Charles was a great Australian, whose contributions to the state of Western Australia and to the nation are acknowledged gratefully across the political spectrum and across the nation .

His influence and dedication to the nation will be sorely missed.  

 
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